Hampstead Tea’s Organic Fairtrade English Breakfast was one of the four teas I decided to try in a side-by-side comparison – see below. It was sent to me in a tea swap, from Europe, but it is available in the U.S. through Amazon.com among others. Of the four teas I was comparing, this was the only one that wasn’t commonly available in U.S. supermarkets, but since being available online provides almost as much accessibility as buying locally, these days, I decided that it was fair to compare it to Twinings and Bigelow teas, which are in just about every supermarket chain.
This tea brewed up a medium color – not as dark as the Irish Breakfast I tried or the other English Breakfast in the comparison – and the flavor was also just a bit milder than those two. Not that that’s a complaint; although breakfast teas are supposed to be bold, many people want a tea that’s not so assertive that it threatens to knock them out of their chairs. There was a little bit of a malty note, but I’m guessing that this was a blend of several teas, rather than being mostly Assam the way some traditional English Breakfasts are. That’s actually a good thing, though, because it led to an unexpected pleasure: when I tried it with sugar, it acquired a slight fruity note that was very pleasant both to smell and taste. I doubt that it would have this with artificial sweeteners, but sugar definitely did it. I don’t normally add sweetener to my tea, but the small amount I added here was a definite hit, and I’d drink this again with that bit of sugar. On the other hand, when I tried it with milk, the milk did nothing for it except mute the tea flavor, and since that was already milder than some other breakfast teas, I didn’t think that the milk was a good idea. However, if you are one of the people who adds milk specifically to mitigate what you perceive as a harsh note in black teas, then you would be pleased with this result.
I notice on Amazon.com that Hampstead also makes a loose leaf organic English Breakfast tea. I haven’t tried that, so I can’t speak to whether the properties are similar to the teabags I tried, but it’s nice to know that the option is available. Myself, first thing in the morning, I’m not awake enough yet to fuss with loose leaf tea, and I appreciate the convenience of tea bags until I’m more awake, the arthritis has vanished from my fingers, and my eyes are fully opened.
Hampstead describes this tea as:
Carefully blended black teas from North India create a punchy and full-bodied brew. Londoners like it best with a dash of milk. Great to start a busy day.
Ingredients: Fairtrade black tea.
By the way, Hampstead describes these as sachets, but they are ordinary paper teabags.
I rarely buy relatively “plain” teas myself, as I get served plain black tea in restaurants and in other people’s houses, and I receive lots of samples of black teas. This usually means, though, that I have only two or three cups’ worth of any particular tea, and often end up grabbing tea bags at random for my first cup of the morning, thus using up many of the loose tea bags people send me without even noticing what they are. This time I made a conscious effort, and collected several bags each of several kinds of related teas that people have sent me, mostly things that are commonly available, and did a side-by-side test of them. I brewed them all identically, and tried one cup plain, one with a small amount of sugar, and one with milk. The other English Breakfast tea that I tried was Twinings English Breakfast, reviewed here.